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“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” – Neil Armstrong

Humans have and will always be explorers. From accessing remote lands on earth to exploring space, Humans are curious and will always try to set foot where no one has ever been before. But we don’t need to go as far as the outer-space to access new inaccessible places: we can just look at the nanoscopic world around us! Put your lab coat and cosmonaut helmet on and let’s show Neil Armstrong a few new places to plant his flag! 

Difficulties of exploring the 3D-world on the molecular level

Molecules are an assembly of different atoms (such as Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen or Oxygen for examples) sharing electrons. There are molecules that are planar (2D), and others that exist in 3 dimensions. A lot of research has already been done to explore the spaces on 2D-molecules. But when we add an extra dimension, things tend to become more complicated…

3D-molecules can look very similar, have the same atoms in the same order, and still have different properties. This is what chemists call enantiomers. Enantiomers are mirror-image molecules that can’t be stacked on top of each other. Like our hands! We have the same fingers on both hands, in the same order (thumb next to the index finger, which is next to the middle finger etc…). Our hands are images of each other in a mirror but can’t be stacked on top of each other. Consequently, our hands don’t show the same abilities: we will be able to write with the right hand while the left one is clumsier, for example. 

© Dr Louise Ruyet

This small geometrical difference can also drastically impact the properties of molecules! For example, methamphetamine can exist as two different enantiomers. One (the right hand) is the active compound of Vicks Inhaler, an over-the-counter medicine used to clear your nose when you have a cold. The other enantiomer (left hand) is an illicit drug. This small geometrical difference has a huge impact on how our body is reacting to the two molecules! Therefore, Vicks has to be extra careful so that the medicine they are selling is in the right form and will produce the desired effect. You would not want to be high on a hard drug after taking medicine for a cold!

© Dr Louise Ruyet

But how does Vicks manage to produce only the right enantiomer and not the illicit drug? Two main methodologies can be used by the company to synthesize the desired enantiomer:

  1. Vicks could use traditional synthetic methodologies where there is no control over which enantiomer is formed preferentially.  They would obtain both enantiomers in a 50/50 ratio, which would then need to be separated. This separation is extremely difficult due to the structural similarities of the two molecules and is also going to generate a lot of waste, as they are going to discard D-methamphetamine (or maybe open another business on the side – Breaking Bad, anyone?) to only keep L-methamphetamine.
  2. Vicks could use a more recent method, where only one enantiomer is formed selectively using a chiral catalyst. A chiral catalyst is a molecule which is going to “block” one face of the molecule and allow the reaction to happen either on the “front” or on the “back” of the molecule and therefore create one enantiomer preferentially. This is what we call enantioselective synthesis. This is what my research is about! 

Organocatalyst, a cleaner fuel to explore new chemical spaces

In the past, most of the chiral catalysts used were metal species, but these catalysts come with several drawbacks. First, we only have a limited amount of rare metals on earth. This problem has been particularly highlighted recently with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which is greatly impacting the price of these rare metals. Finally, metals pollute – not only our environment but also our body. If a metal catalyst is required during the synthesis of a drug, all traces of metal species must be removed from the drug before giving it to a patient, which is extremely complicated and time consuming. 

In the last decades, an alternative has been found and rewarded by the Nobel prize in 2021: organocatalysis. This time, we are not using metal species but small organic molecules (such as proline for example). In comparison to metal catalysts, organocatalysts are abundant on earth, less toxic and cheaper. In my research I am using a special type of organocatalyst containing Iodine.  

© Dr Louise Ruyet

3D Fluorinated molecules, the ultimate exploration goal

We have our goal (to access 3D molecules and synthesize one enantiomer selectively), we have our team of astronaut/chemist, we have the rocket filled with green fuel (organocatalyst). Where should we go now? What planet should we explore? 

Have you ever heard of fluorine containing molecules?  Probably not, and yet I am 100% sure you are consuming fluorinated molecules daily. If you have ever used a Teflon pan, took a drug, or gardened, you are likely to have been using fluorinated molecules, as more than 25% of the pharmaceuticals and 40% of agrochemicals contain at least one fluorine atom. 

In most cases, these fluorinated molecules are still in 2D. The role of the fluorine atom is to change the physical/chemical properties of the 2D molecules to make them more efficient. For example, the presence of fluorine is going to make it easier for the fluorinated drug to go through the membrane in our bodies, allowing it to reach the desired site of action faster and be quickly active.

In 3D molecules, fluorine is going to have an additional role. Usually, for a drug to be active, it needs to interact with a receptor in our body, just like a key is going to interact with a lock to open a door. The receptors (locks) are sensitive to the geometry of the molecule (key). Only one key can unlock the door, and only one enantiomer can activate the receptor. Therefore, a big goal of chemical companies and of my research today at the WWU is to finally be able to access and control 3D fluorinated molecules with the help of our iodine organocatalyst. These 3D molecules, which were still unexplored spaces until now, could be the high-value added molecules/keys of tomorrow!

After that, rockets and spacesuits will no longer be required to have our head in the stars!

© Dr Louise Ruyet

In the series “33 questions” we introduce, in no particular order, our WiRe Fellows who are currently working on a research project here at the University of Münster. Why 33? Well, if we think of the rush hour of life, it is kind of the age that lies in the middle. And we also like the number😉.

In today’s episode we are speaking with Arianna, biologist working on cancer research.

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1. What motivated you to work in the field of cancer research?

Cancer is a fascinating disease, complex and made of an intricate web of genetic and molecular interactions, many of which still need to be untangled and better (if not completely) understood. Moreover, cancer is a very translational field, offering the opportunity to interface with exciting and interesting questions, new practical techniques, and different research fields, which results in very challenging and stimulating work.

2. Describe your daily work in three words. 

Hypothesis, experiments, statistics.

3. Describe your research topic in three words. 

Breast cancer, hyaluronan, non-coding RNAs.

4. A good biologist needs…? 

Good knowledge of molecular biology and, most importantly, be open-minded!

5. What is the best experience you have had as a scientist / researcher? 

The best experience as a researcher is anytime I can fly to a new country, work in a new laboratory, and learn new things. I love to expand my knowledge.

6. Which (historical) important scientist would you like to have dinner with? What would you ask?

Rosalind Franklin: the real discoverer of the helix morphology of DNA. I would like to ask her how she managed to pursue a solid career in scientific research in a period when science was made mainly (if not only) by men. 

7. If time and money were no object: Which research project would you like to do?

It would be wonderful to perform a huge screening on cancer patients worldwide, to find which are the actual markers that could help in the early diagnosis of tumours and to perform targeted therapy – a lot of tumours still lack such targeted therapy (some kinds of breast cancers are among those), drastically reducing the effectiveness of the treatment. 

8. What is your favorite research discipline other than your own?

Ethology. I am a big lover of animals, and I’ve been always interested in understanding their behaviours. Indeed, my house has always been full of a lot of different (and sometimes quite unusual) animals. Are you familiar with sugar gliders? Those are among my favourite ones!

© WIRE, Nikolaus Urban, 2022

9. What do you consider the greatest achievement in the history of science / your field? 

Hard to answer. Any discovery is essential in science, as it lays the foundation for future achievements. Having to choose one: the sequencing of the human genome. It unearthed many interesting details about our genome, dispelling many false myths (no, our genome is not as unique as we think, nor is it the most complex!)

10. Which experience in the world of science disappointed you most?

The covid-19 pandemic unveiled a lot of misinformation from numerous scientists, some even very prominent. This has contributed to worsening the situation, triggering a feeling of anger, insecurity and disbelief in the people not only towards the institutions but also towards most of the scientists, physicians and experts in the field. Normally, science should work like this: formulate a hypothesis, run your experiments, study a lot and only then confirm or even disprove your hypothesis. The pandemic has shown that unfortunately, the scientific method is not always applied thus leading to the spread of fake news and disinformation, which is really upsetting. 

11. What was the funniest moment you had in science?

When you find your perfect labmate, lab life is always funny! I particularly remember once, when I needed to make injections to some Xenopus Laevix (which are African clawed frogs). These frogs were just impossible to block because they were very slimy and continued to slip away from my hands. I was trying the impossible, blocking the very last Xenopus, when my labmate just risked making the injection in my hand! That was scary at first moment, but after a few seconds, we started laughing a lot!

© WIRE, Nikolaus Urban, 2022

12. How did you survive your PhD time?

I did survive thanks to all the people that worked in the lab with me and made me laugh a lot! Sometimes scientific research could be very upsetting. Weeks and even months of work could be shuttered in just a few moments, and this can destroy you morally. But if you have beautiful people around you, you can survive that!

13. What direct or indirect relevance does your research have for society?

Cancer research is a big priority in world health: tumour prevalence is so high that more than 19 million new cancer cases were estimated worldwide in 2020. What is more, despite current improvements in both early prevention and targeted treatments, both mortality and morbidity are still very high, with about 10 million deaths every year. 

Focusing specifically on breast cancer, it is the first diagnosed cancer and the second cause of cancer deaths in women. The spreading of mammographic screening between the 1980s and 1990s together with a reduction in the use of menopausal hormone therapy led to a significant decrease in breast cancer incidence in the early 2000s. However, even if population-wide breast cancer screening programs aim to reduce breast cancer mortality through early detection and effective treatments, establishing primary prevention programs for breast cancer remains a great challenge. This is why cancer research is essential – only investigating deeper into cancer biology would allow an understanding of the critical biomarkers, together with their role in carcinogenesis, drug resistance and their use for diagnosis and therapy, which is crucial for early detection and the development of an effective breast cancer treatment. 

Breast cancer can be classified into different subtypes, among which the most aggressive ones are called “Triple-Negative”. This kind of tumour lacks the expression of hormone receptors, which are the main targets for the currently known therapies exploited in the clinics for other breast cancer types. 

My research project focuses on the study of the interaction between the tumour cells with their surrounding microenvironment. Cells are not autonomous entities, growing and replicating independently from their niche. Instead, they have strict interactions with the so-called “tumour microenvironment”, which is composed of immune cells, stromal cells, blood vessels, and extracellular matrix, including hyaluronic acid. In particular, hyaluronic acid is known to have a pivotal role in regulating cancer growth and aggressiveness. We recently described that a small RNA molecule, called HAS2-AS1 is not only involved in the regulation of HA synthesis in some cell types but is also implicated in tunning cancer aggressiveness on its own. In particular, when it is present at high levels in very aggressive Triple-Negative breast cancers, HAS2-AS1 can decrease cancer aggressiveness. Our current hypothesis, which we already partially confirmed, is that HAS2-AS1 could slow down cancer cells’ growth, impair their ability to migrate and metastasise, and induce the death of cancer cells. This implies that the development of an RNA-based targeted therapy involving HAS2-AS1 molecule could improve aggressive breast cancer treatment.

14. How did you imagine the life of a scientist / researcher when you were a high school student?

During high school, I always imagined scientists working in big laboratories, wearing their white coats and blue gloves, making experiments all day long, using colourful solutions and big and expensive instruments. 

15. Is it actually different? In what way?

To be honest, the situation is not so much different from what I imagined, except for the fact that researchers need a lot of money to do everything. And please, do not believe what you see in tv shows: science also needs time too. Some experiments could be tremendously long to perform and give some results. 

© WIRE, Nikolaus Urban, 2022

16. What do you like most about the “lifestyle” of a scientist? And what least of it? 

What I like most is the possibility to learn every day something new and the need of being extremely open-minded, which is a big pro. On the other hand, there is a huge con: you never finish working, even when you are at home. There is always something to do or to think of. There is no way you can say: “Well, for today I’ve done with my job!”. 

17. Do you think your career would have evolved differently if you were a man?

Definitely. Finding a stable and prestigious position is very difficult in our field, especially if you are a woman. Sometimes, the first question they make to you during an interview, as a woman, is: “Do you have a family?” or “Are you thinking about having children?”. 

18. If you were the research minister of Germany, what would you do to improve the situation of women in science?

To smooth out the differences between men and women to allow equal opportunities for both in career advancement.

19. If you had a daughter, what would you advise her not to do?

I would tell her not to listen to people that suggest having low expectations from her life and to pursue “woman-friendly targets”. Everything is possible if you strongly believe it and spend all your strengths to achieve a result. 

20. How would you explain your research area and topic to a child?

Generally speaking, talking about cancer to a child is never easy. 

I think that a good way to explain to a child what I do is by using superheroes. 

The tumor is like a big villain. Not a simple one: one of those with an enormous armor, made of many different layers and materials. The superhero of the story, on the other hand, is the medicine that biologists, chemists, and physicians try to develop in order to hit and destroy the villain.

My job is to find the weak points in the villain’s armor and exploit the weak point to build a weapon that the hero can use to defeat the enemy.

The story, however, is not that simple. Indeed, the villain is very intelligent, and his armor can change at any moment so that the hero cannot recognize him anymore! He can also multiply, and scatter everywhere, hiding where no one can find him.

It is here that the researcher intervenes. Researchers are like the “nerd computer guys” that every hero has as help. Researchers observe the bad guy and thoroughly study his armor, his weapons and all the powers he possesses. So, he can build ever new weapons for the hero: a lightsaber, a freezing beam, a magic compass that finds all the little criminals scattered and hidden in the world.

In short, my job is to study all the movements of the enemy, inform the hero and build him majestic weapons that will allow him to definitively defeat the villain of the story!

21. What is the biggest challenge for you when it comes to balancing family and career?

Having my head free and not constantly thinking about work.

© WIRE, Nikolaus Urban, 2022

22. How do you master this / these challenge(s)?

When I am with my family, I shut down my phone and enjoy every single moment. 

23. How often do you as a friend / partner / mother / daughter feel guilty when you have to meet a deadline – again?

Every single time. Fortunately, my family always supported me, encouraging me to reach my goals. And my friend, well… most of them are scientists too, so we understand and support each other!

24. How did you imagine your future as a child? What profession did you want to pursue?

I’ve always been a big passionate about nature and animals. I liked watching documentaries on nature and animals, which allowed me to discover the existence of wired and funny creatures all around the world. I enjoyed walking in the wood, observing flowers and plants, and catching all the differences between one and the others. I’ve always imagined myself as a ranger!

To be honest, there was a period in my life when I dreamed of becoming an archaeologist, but my big passion for biology won over everything else, as I became an adult. 

© WIRE, Nikolaus Urban, 2022

25. How do you keep your head clear when you are stressed? 

I love cooking, especially cakes! Putting together different ingredients, kneading with my own hands, and creating delicious desserts are always very relaxing for me. 

I also like reading books. I mostly enjoy fantasy books, which help me travel to new worlds and clear my head from the daily stressful situations. 

26. What or who inspired you to become a biologist?

I’ve always been very curious, ever since I was a child. I’ve always had the instinct and the desire to find out how things worked and what the world was like. I had the biggest luck to have a family that has always stimulated this aspect of my personality and school teachers who have helped me to increase my interest in natural sciences. So I would say that becoming some kind of scientist has always been my destiny.

27. If someone asks you about your age, what do you respond spontaneously?

I do not have any problem declaring my age. Every year that passes gives us memories, greater knowledge and greater awareness of ourselves and the world around us. Age is a boast. 

28. Which hobby have you given up for a life in academia?

Almost none. Life in academia allows you to organize your time almost however you like, giving you enough time to carry on your hobbies.

29. If you could travel in time: in which epoch and at which discovery or event would you have liked to have been there?

I’ve always been a big fan of Vikings, so I would for sure travel back between VIII and XI centuries to learn more about their culture. 

However, I would also like to be in 1666, to witness Isaac Newton’s stroke of genius which led him to formulate the “law of universal gravitation”. I’m curious to know if the famous “apple legend” is really true or not!

30. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing a Research@home-WiRe-fellowship?

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to travel to Münster and do an “on-site” WiRe fellowship. It would have been a great pity not to be able to learn in person about academic life at WWU.

31. What is your favorite place in Münster?

Prinzipalmarkt, and the whole historic centre. It is so prestigious and very reminiscent of Renaissance and medieval times. It is fabulous to walk through the streets of the centre, especially for a fantasy book lover like me! 

32. What surprised you most about the University of Münster? 

The great willingness of everyone to help you in any aspect of academic and non-academic life.

33. What is the biggest difference between the academic system you have last done research in and the academic system as you experience it in Münster / Germany?

The big internationality of WWU.

by Dr. Mariagiulia Giuffré, Legal Scholar

Throughout history, people have always migrated from one place to another. Ever since the earliest humans began to spread from Africa thousands of years ago, people have been on the move, driven by climate, food availability, and other environmental factors [1]. Today about three percent of the world’s population live outside of their country of origin due to famine, climate change, persecution, security, demography, poverty and human rights abuses. Within this broadly mixed category of people on the move, refugees fleeing persecution and gross human rights violations in their home country represent the most vulnerable group, and are often unable to obtain personal identification and travel documents. As uninvited aliens, refugees are often perceived as a menace to the peace and internal security of the host State while also having no community and no linkage with their home country. As such, they are treated as outsiders whose claims must first be carefully assessed in order to decide whether they are legitimate and worthy of assistance. States’ endeavours to impose ever more robust barriers against those who seek to enter their national territories continue to accelerate and have therefore led to a ‘tension between generosity towards those at home and wariness of those from abroad’ [2].  

By Dr Debdatta Ray, Applied Physicist

What do hazelnuts, cupcakes and our planet have to do with an invisibility cloak? Well, it’s all about nanotechnology!

How would you feel if you had your own “invisibility cloak” just like our favourite child hero Harry Potter? Or if you were to own a smartphone as thin as a sheet of paper? Or, if your bulky camera bag became the size of a hand-held purse as your DSLR camera shrunk to one resembling the size of a fruit cake? I am sure that this sounds like science fiction to you, and you might be wondering whether it is at all possible in reality. Well, the truth is – some laboratories are at the brink of making this a reality soon. You still don’t believe this? Then follow me into the world of nanotechnology and metasurfaces – the two key players that make this dream possible!

Dr Louisa Preston

Self-organised and institutionally hosted artists’ book fairs and the range of artist-publishing they represent offer valuable insights into a relatively under-researched area of publishing. These insights include an understanding of the meanings and motivations behind creating comics, zines and artists’ publications. I have been gaining an understanding of how these publications are produced, circulate through the fairs’ networks, and communities of readers, producers and publishers by attending two artists’ book fairs in 2021.

Drawing as a research method within an autoethnographic research approach produces new insights into artists’ book fairs. I use drawing to capture a moment of an experience and convey an emotive aspect of that experience, which speaks to something that words on their own can’t convey. I use Instagram (@louisapreston_scribo) as a site of publication for my drawings, to share my reflections and explorations of my lived experience in a small city in Scotland, and to find others who use drawing for similar or different ends to my own in becoming part of an evolving community of comic artists, zine-makers, artists’ publishers, researchers and illustrators.

I was asked by the lovely folks at WiRe to write a blog post on why my research on artists’ book fairs matters. The research process can feel like a hike up a steep mountain at times! But why does my autoethnographic research, which utilises drawing and creative research methods to investigate artists’ book fairs matter? – and is the hike worth it?!

Autoethnographic Research: From My Lived Experience to Research

My autoethnographic research approach utilises drawing as a research method and my lived experience as the lens through which I am generating insights into artists’ book fairs and comic and zine fairs. My understanding of these aspects of the artists’ book fair and participants involved derives from my own experience as an artist who trained at DJCAD in Dundee. As an artist-publisher-researcher and a mother, I too seek to find my place in this world in a way that combines my drive for creative expression and the clarity that drawing gives that writing can’t of a particular kind of tacit understanding. The artists’ book fair and the comic and zine fair I am using as case studies in this research are investigated and understood from this positioning.

Drawing is an expressive tool for understanding and exploring an emotive experience. Drawings, illustrated notes and memory poetry comics I create capture a moment and produce emotive insights of my experience. This uniquely contributes to existing literature in the area of book fairs and literary festivals as the visual materials I am generating contribute an emotive and personal experience to the understanding from a researcher-practitioner perspective.

The Bigger Picture: Post-Digital Book Cultures and the Visual Arts

Before explaining what artists’ book fairs are, it’s worth briefly saying how this research relates to the bigger picture. Post-Digital is a term used by researchers to reflect the current status of our communications, production, consumption and dissemination processes today. The term does not simply refer to a time after digital technologies began to disrupt certain processes, especially those for publishers. Rather, it reflects the mix of digital and analogue technologies used in these processes and the ability for people to ‘do-it-yourself’ via the advancement of personal computers and digital devices we have at our disposal that no longer requires specialist technologies or knowledge to use.

Within this framing, my research investigates the modes and functions that artist-publishing reveals and the agendas at play in the processes of producing, consuming and disseminating artists’ books. It seeks to understand these aspects of the artists’ book fair and artist-publishing and relate them to their counterpart book fairs in the literary network. It considers the stakes for artists and organisers of artists’ books fairs and their positioning in this area of publishing to the mainstream book publishing industry.

A niche area of Publishing as Case Study: Artists’ Book Fairs & Comic and Zine Fairs

Research in artists’ book fairs and comic and zine fairs is important as the number of fairs has been increasing in recent years in the UK. These online and in-person events celebrate artists’ publishing and the variety of experimental formats, modes and motivations for publications produced in this niche area of publishing. They offer valuable insights to wider research in post-digital book cultures.

Artists’ book fairs bring together people with similar interests, namely the pursuit of disseminating their creative ideas and fostering debate on contemporary issues. They foster and create communities of people who are interested in becoming a publisher of their own work and who then in turn may be published by a small press or larger publisher. The Manchester Bound Art Book Fair, hosted by the Whitworth Art Gallery, had a mixture of independent art publishers and zine makers presenting their publications.

Similarly, comic and zine fairs celebrate the comic artform and experimental formats linked to comics. The Hackney Comic and Zine Fair which I attended in September 2021 was a self-organised fair (organised by Joe Stone) that encouraged and supported attendees’ work at workshops and showcased celebrated comic artists and zine makers through the virtual fair tables and panel discussion events. Zines (a name which derives from magazine) are small hand-made and cheaply reproduced pamphlets or booklets which are made by either stapling the pages or creating pages by folding down a single sheet. (For more on zines I recommend Notes from the Underground by Stephen Duncombe). Individual creatives of zines and comics seek out discussion with peers to help with challenges of production or with seeking second opinions of their work. Motives behind creating the works for the comic and zine maker include: seeking clarity of their position in the world, to understand how they might be different or how they might endure a particular facet of their mental or physical well-being for example.

Hackney Comic and Zine Fair (HCZF), September 2021.

I attended the Hackney Comic and Zine Fair in September 2021. This was an online fair with a programme of events spanning the month of September. Instagram was a main channel for the organisers of the fair to communicate information about the programme. Attendees of the fair also used Instagram to post their reactions and share their work with others, which I also participated in. The online fair offered me the opportunity to attend from my home in Perth, which meant there were no travel time and cost requirements for me to attend. I was able to use my laptop and could situate myself anywhere that I felt most comfortable. Events I attended included: ‘The Power of the Small Press’; ‘Abstraction in Comics’; ‘All Comics No Time’; ‘Manga and Asian Comics’ and a ‘One-page Comic Workshop’.

‘The Power of the Small Press’ was a talk by Gareth Brookes. Brookes spoke of the fact that in 2005 there were no publishers making the kind of works that he was. There were no anthologies and no printers. He would use a photocopier at work or his home printer. By 2010, he noted the publishers Myriad and No Brow had been set up but that people were essentially working out of their kitchens. The so-called big publishers in this area were really small presses. He also pointed out that the low numbers of print runs and publishers of comics and zines were largely comprised of under-represented groups. Speaking of the materiality of some kinds of comics he said, “it’s what the art wants to be, small-press published”. 

Manchester Bound Art Book Fair, October 2021.

In contrast to HCZF, Manchester Bound Art Book Fair was hosted by the Whitworth Gallery and as such could be understood as an institutionally hosted fair compared to HCZF. Art publishers and self-publishers were presenting their publications at tables in one of the gallery spaces. Social issues, feminism and gender equality are some of the topics that publications and publishers at this fair addressed. A two-part zine on ‘Radical Bookstores’ for example aimed to highlight to the interested reader a collection of places to find books, zines and pamphlets on radical and political thought.

Modus is a publication which is associated with a research project of the same name on fashion. The project aims to generate dialogue between the theory and practice of fashion, supporting “expanded ways of thinking being and doing fashion”. I attended a hands-on workshop led by the two principal investigators of the project as part of the fair programme. We were given the publication and introduced to the project before being asked to cut up parts of the publication and then stick parts of those cuttings back onto it with the addition of other images. This interactive and creative workshop was interesting for my research because of the use of the publication as a tool generating insights from the workshop participants in unforeseen and creative ways. Participants of the workshop could take away their finished version of the Modus publication afterwards. We were also encouraged to share our thoughts of what fashion is on the project website.

My journey from Perth, Scotland to Manchester is documented as part of this art fair experience through my memory poetry comics. In addition, sketches and writing add further reflections of my attendance of the book fair as an artist-publisher-researcher.

In terms of the interests of my research and the experiences highlighted here, the networks of production and consumption involved and the motivations for creating these types of art and zine publishing and the fairs that are organised around them are producing insights into a post-digital mode of artist-publishing, art publishers, and self-publishing. Practices of creating, communicating and sharing involve a degree of do-it-yourself gusto, digital and analogue formats, professional and non-professional agents, which coalesce at the artists’ book fairs and comic and zine fairs, online and in-person. Low numbers of production, a high degree of personalisation and an emphasis on supportive communities of creativity which celebrate the comic, zine and artists’ book format are indicative of artists’ book fairs. My analysis is still ongoing, but I hope that the highlights of my research here show the value of artists’ book fairs and the autoethnographic approach to research in this area. 

If you’re reading our WiRe blog, (Welcome, by the way!) chances are you have a favourite scientist, or might be able to name some of the greats who have contributed invaluably to science: their discoveries, impact, and legacies positively affect people and societies across the globe.

How many scientists of this caliber on your list of personal favourites are women? If we were to guess your answer based off history and statistics alone, there may very well be more men than women on the roster.